Rock royalty Sting and Paul Simon put on an unpredictable show together in Dallas...
American Airlines Center welcomed two members of rock royalty on Sunday night. Before Sting, 62, and Paul Simon, 72, appeared for the second show of their On Stage Together Tour, the atmosphere already felt different than that of most arena pop spectacles. Curtains covered unused nosebleed sections, musicians and instruments (rather than set pieces) littered a sprawling stage, and longtime fans of both headliners slowly took their seats, mostly likely unsure of what was to come.
We overheard blunt debates between concertgoers as to who'd put on the better show (as if it were some sort of death match), and we entertained theories on how the two men would work out pacing and order. Sting and Simon are first-class musicians with equally high lyrical standards, but their performing styles aren't inherently compatible. Would this particular experiment work?
Short answer: It worked in a strange, unpredictable, and not-quite-seamless fashion. While Sting assumed the singular-rock-god position effortlessly - he's in better shape than most people half his age - Simon played it significantly cooler and more casual.
The former Police frontman attracted all gazes and commanded folks to stand with the clap of his hands or a wiggle of his hips while his elder co-headliner more frequently shared a spotlight with the dozen or so world-class band members assembled on stage.
Sting's ageless singing hit euphoric peaks and tender valleys throughout; Simon's vocal stylings evolved from tentative to comfortable and jazzy. Their mini sets weaved together and blended as a delightfully odd jam session, reminding everyone why genius-level musicianship always trumps sets and choreography.
After kicking off the concert together with "Brand New Day," "Boy in the Bubble," and "Fields of Gold," Simon headed backstage and Sting handled the first mini-set of the evening. "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" brought the folks to their feet immediately. After a few more tunes, Simon returned to join him on "Love is the Seventh Wave" and then "Mother and Child Reunion." Call it a Hall of Famers' song swap.
When Sting surrendered the stage, Simon explored material from Graceland and other classic solo albums. He didn't see many people stand and dance until he got to "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard," though. By then, Simon was beginning to find a festival rhythm in his performance, letting the multiple drummers on stage work their magic.
The alone-and-together format continued for one more round of each headliner. Sting's second set offered the obligatory "Roxanne" and "Message in a Bottle." Simon hit his solo peak with the breakneck ending of "Kodachrome" and the soul-stirring African chants of "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes."
Yet some of the finest musical moments overall came when the two performers stood side-by-side. I've never heard a more gorgeous rendition of Sting's tune, "Fragile," thanks to his intricate guitar-picking and Simon's wisdom-fueled singing. And while it was difficult not to think of Art Garfunkel's angelic tone during "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Sunday's encore rendition served as a reminder of this tour's unique magic. Two voices didn't become one, exactly, but they still succeeded in lifting each othler higher.
(c) Dallas Morning News by Hunter Hauk
Paul Simon and Sting at American Airlines Center...
On paper, the pairing perplexed.
Paul Simon, one of pop music's pre-eminent craftsmen, joining forces with Sting, a polished, multi-platinum superstar at the other end of the sonic spectrum.
Once the shock receded a bit, similarities emerged - each embraces a polyrhythmic songwriting style, both are intimately familiar with world music and, if nothing else, Simon and Sting could commiserate about leaving high-profile bands and striking out on their own.
So, it was with guarded optimism a sizable crowd poured into the American Airlines Center Sunday night (about 25 percent of the upper deck was curtained off), for only the second performance of the "On Stage Together" tour.
In practice, the pairing pleased - and surprisingly so.
Over the course of 30 songs and nearly three hours, the two men swapped verses on well-known hits and established an ebb-and-flow rhythm that made the evening seem like a particularly well-sequenced iTunes playlist. After a few songs together, one or the other would exit, leaving whoever was left to perform a mini solo set.
"So, we've entered into an adventure," Simon said, not long after taking the stage. "How will we blend two extraordinary bands and two different styles?"
The night was devoted to finding out.
Split down the middle, song-wise, each man got about 15 songs to showcase, with the highlights being the 10 tunes they performed, well, "On Stage Together." Hearing Simon sing verses of Sting's Fields of Gold was discombobulating, just as was hearing Sting's spin on The Boxer.
Their voices didn't always blend seamlessly - Sting's husky tenor occasionally overpowered Simon's thin baritone - but there were a few moments, particularly during The Boxer, which were absolutely breathtaking (the pair's harmonizing on the indelible line "I am leaving, I am leaving/But the fighter still remains" raised goosebumps).
Backed by both of their own touring bands, which crammed the stage full of more than a dozen musicians, Sting and Simon displayed a laid-back chemistry, although Sting's tendency to playfully dismiss Simon during his own solo portions ("Bye, Paul!") seemed a little snarky. (He made up for it with a masterful, moving reading of Simon & Garfunkel's America.)
The contrast between them - Sting's jazz-inflected austerity and Simon's earthy ebullience - helped sustain the show during some of its duller stretches, particularly as it ticked past the two-hour mark.
However odd the union seemed, its benefits were evident. Sting seemed far less willing to coast than on his 2011 "Back to Bass" tour, and Simon redoubled his efforts to shake up his back catalog (for instance: all but scatting You Can Call Me Al).
That sort of creative competition is healthy, especially for two artists who could easily coast on a greatest hits tour, which "On Stage Together" avoids being simply because of its novelty.
Hopefully, the marketplace isn't flooded with knock-offs ("Jackson Browne and Elton John: On Stage Together!"), but if more puzzling pairings pop up in the near future, it won't be a mystery as to why.
(c) Fort Worth Star Telegram by Preston Jones
Simon & Sting Together, On Tour, With A Gumbo Of Talent...
Paul Simon and Sting are two of rock's favorite singer/songwriter musicians played together in Dallas, Texas at the American Airlines Center on the second night of their US tour. When they walked on stage together, they were greeted by a warm Texas crowd by avid fans who wore anticipation on their faces. They were on their feet as the show began.
The two artists started mild and mellow to set the mood of the show. "Miracle and Wonder" was one of the early fan favorites as both artists embraced the Dallas audience with a diversity of songs. Sting's "Field of Gold," "Driven To Tears" and a song he wrote for the late Johnny Cash, "Hung My Head," were early pleasers. Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion," "Me and Julio," and his smooth 70's classic, "50 Ways To Leave You Lover" performed with a cool jazzy touch, were outstanding hits of the show!
I really enjoyed their mixed bag of song selections. They brought an entourage of 14 talented musicians who highlighted the show from the start. Simon and Sting assembled a montage of performers to transition between solo and duet numbers. So much talent, so little time as both Sting and Simon delivered the goods with that hand-picked and very impressive back-up band. It made the show quite enjoyable to watch the connection all the musicians on stage had with one another. With a wide range of musical styles, and change ups to familiar classic's, the show was filled with African beats, Zydeco rhythmic, bluegrass and folk, modern rock to jazz. These cats were having a whole lotta fun! It was a roller coaster of mood changing highs and lows that kept most of the packed house of Baby Boomers alert and some sedated. Actually saw a few people too relaxed in their seat napping during the show. Yep, it happens!
I will not attempt to list all, or even most of the songs played in their 2 hour and 45 minute set. Notable crowd favs like; "Message In The Bottle," "The Boxer," "Kodachrome" and a old standard "Mystery Train" were a few of the high notes. My all time goodie, "Roxanne" really woke them all up, from what I saw!
True story: I saw Sting play "Roxanne" at Reunion Arena, Dallas in 1985. This overjoyed young lady dropped her dress, leaving her with nothing on but her black high heels while standing on her second row center seat. It was such a surprise and a eyeful for Sting that he stopped playing, turned and left the stage, as the local Dallas Police hauled the not so-overjoyed drunken lady away.
The show ended the way it began, with a mellow chill to dance in the aisle. Closing with "Late In The Evening," the entire AAC was on their feet and shaking some part of their body to the groove expressed by that amazing talent on stage, especially Sting and his bass guitar. The house was lit up! Quite brilliant! While trading off the stage, I noticed Paul and Sting had a personal bond easily seen by the numerous hugs they shared. In one of the final songs of the night, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," they performed as a duet with Sting finishing in a powerhouse ending. Whoa! It was INCREDIBLE! I'll be honest, by then I was ready to split until I spotted guitar techs setting up two acoustics front and center. Within moments, Simon and Sting appeared for a final song "When Will I Be Loved," a tribute to their old friend, Phil Everly.
Great tour! Must catch it live!
(c) Jam Magazine by Marco Javier